Last night it rained here for many hours. It wouldn’t stop. It wasn’t a strong rain. Some days are really hot. Some days are rainy. The weather changes every day. It is normal. When it doesn’t rain, we want it to rain. Wanting arises and our heart is upset. When it finally rains, we are pleased. We got what we wanted. Sometimes we don’t want it to rain. Like the monks going for alms walk don’t want it to rain. When it does, we are displeased. We get what we want and we are pleased. We get what we don’t want and we are displeased.
All things exist, not from our wanting them to, but they exist as a result of causes. Rain will fall because of the causes for rain. Rain will not fall because of causes as well. If we understand, dhamma will show itself in all times and all places. Even rainy and sunny days, all things are dhamma poised to teach us. If our eyes are open, if we continue to observe, we will discover: when our heart has wanting arise in it, it will suffer.
If our heart understands the truth that all things arise out of causes, if the cause is there, it arises. When the cause is gone, it disappears. It is not under our control. We are naive in regards to wanting. Wanting is insubstantial. It just makes our heart suffer. And that is all. We learn dhamma so that our heart arrives at a normal natural state. We will see that all things are ordinary. Ordinary in the sense that they follow causes, not ordinary in the sense that they are random or without reason.
Why do we get old? Because we’re born. If we aren’t born, then we don’t age. We don’t get sick and we don’t die. Birth is a natural and ordinary thing. Once born, we must die. We will have those we love that we admire. We want them to be with us forever but that’s impossible. No one can live forever. Wanting arises and we suffer. Have a good look and see. That all our desires are uniformly for things that we are not, or have not. We have no desire for things that we already are or already have.
Like, if we don’t have a partner, we want a partner. Once we have a partner, we are yearning for a partner. If we are yearning, it’s for a new partner. We move to wanting something new. What is old we don’t want it anymore.
Desire is what makes us suffer. The Buddha taught that tanha, which is desire, is samudaya or the cause of suffering. The Buddha taught this over 2600 years ago. Since this declaration, no one has been able to refute it. It is absolute truth. No one can refute it. Desire or a craving is the cause of suffering. Therefore, let’s take a close look inside this heart and mind of ours. We will see the truth. Whenever there is wanting, there is suffering. Because whatever we want, we are not or have not.
If we want to be a Congress person, but then we already are a Congress person, then we no longer want it. We want something else. We want to keep the job forever. Become more renowned. The mind will want things it doesn’t have. Therefore, we continue to suffer. Wanting arises, and then we are nervous if we will get what we want or not. The nerves is suffering already. So we can see that it is the wanting that is making us suffer.
Now, when wanting arises in the heart, we can’t stop that. Wanting has its causes. We can’t just tell our heart to stop wanting. That’s just wanting to not want! That doesn’t work. That won’t free us. We have to look deeper and see what the wanting comes from. The Buddha taught Conditioned Arising.
Craving comes from feelings. When our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body or mind come into contact with sense objects and if happiness arises, we want that happiness to stay forever. The mind remembers that flavor of happiness. When the happiness falls away, we are saddened. We want happiness to return. Because we want happiness to return, we will want more sense contact that we are pleased with. We can’t force sense contact. The things we made contact with are sometimes pleasing, sometimes unpleasant. No matter what the reasoning, all these phenomena are non self. They cannot be controlled.
When we come into contact with a pleasing sense object, happiness arises. When the happiness exists, we want the happiness to stay long. The happiness disappears and we want it to come back. Wherever happiness slacks, we want it there. We want pleasant sense objects. It is called sense desire and wanting the object to persist is called craving for existence. Some objects that persist a long time, at first we like them, but after a while, we get bored of them and want them to end. And some objects arise. And we don’t like them right from the beginning. We want it to end quickly.
The mind is foolish. It doesn’t know that all things arise out of causes. Of course, there will be objects that aren’t pleasing to us. In feeling displeased, desire for the objects passing still lurks. Let’s gradually study the causes and effects in our hearts. Learn from reality not from our thoughts.
Like Conditioned Arising, people can find in Dhamma books. They read about Conditioned Arising. There are many such books. But reading is not seeing the phenomena. Reading can’t free us from suffering.
When I was still a student, I ordained once at Chonprathan Temple. I wanted to ordain with Buddhadasa, but he was too far. I was in Nonthaburi near Bangkok. The temple there that taught in the same way as Buddhadasa was Chonprathan, Luangpor Panya. He was a master that I respected since I was young. I ordained with him. He was my preceptor.
After the ordination ceremony with him, he gave me a book by Buddhadassa. It was a thick book, and he told me to read it. He made me study on my own. Read on my own. So I did. I would meditate at the scheduled times. And when I was free, I would read the book, as my preceptor instructed. I read the whole book. And there was one teaching that resonated with me.
Buddhadasa wrote. He or she who sees conditioned arising, sees the dhamma. He or she, who sees the dhamma, sees conditioned arising. Actually, this was a quote from the Buddha himself that Buddhadasa inserted in his book. At that time, I had never heard the words conditioned arising. It excited me, but I didn’t know what it was. I asked my senior monks at the temple what conditioned arising was. They seemed to not really know either. They would just say, oh, it’s about causes and effects. And then they would take off. No availability for follow up questions.
I couldn’t ask Luang Por Panya. He was never at the temple. He would accept invitations. Many people had strong faith in him. He was kind and would accept all invitations to teach or receive meal in other venues. I was moved by the term conditioned arising. I thought it was a dhamma that we really had to learn.
At the end of my monkhood period, I went to bookstores in search of a book focusing on conditioned arising. All I could find was a short book again by Buddhadasa on the topic. I sat and read it. It was full of new terms, like avija, not knowing the four noble truths. That’s called “Avija”, not knowing causes, not knowing results, not knowing causes and their results. That’s called “Avija”. Then it said that avija is the condition that causes sankhara to arise. Sankhara, there are 3 types: Punyaphi Sankhara, formations that are meritorious. Apunyaphi Sankhara, formations that are sinful. Anenchaphi Sankhara, steady or neutral formations.
Then the book described the formless jhanas and such things. I read and didn’t understand. I didn’t know how to use this in practice. I knew that avija or ignorance was not knowing the four noble truths. But I had no idea how to know the four noble truths. The three types of sankhara or formations. Actually, it’s something I didn’t know. I only knew the words in the book. Formations are the condition that caused vinyana or consciousness to arise. But now what was consciousness like, all I knew is that it was the awareness of objects, but the consciousness in this context is rebirth consciousness, the cause of matter and mind. And I didn’t know what matter and mind were like either. Because of mind and matter, then the six senses arise, eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind. Because of the senses, there is sense contact. From contact, arises feelings. Each of these conditions can be elaborated on. There are six sense contacts by way of eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind. Once there is contact, there is feeling. There are three types of feelings. There can arise, pleasant, unpleasant and neutral feelings.
I kept reading the conditions until I hit becoming. There are sensual becoming, form becoming, and formless becoming. Next, there is birth. Birth is acquiring the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind. And birth necessitates suffering. Having eyes, ears, a nose, a tongue and a body and a mind, we suffer.
After reading this many times, I still didn’t know how to start practicing. The Buddhist teachings on conditioned arising still exists and haven’t gone anywhere. However, after reading it, I didn’t know how to use it for practice, how to destroy ignorance, how to destroy craving. It is taught we are to get rid of the cause of suffering. Get rid of craving. And the root of craving is ignorance. So ignorance must be destroyed.
In the book, it said we need wisdom whenever ignorance arises destroy it right then and there. But how to achieve wisdom, again, I had no idea. That experience was the start of my relentless research through the Buddhist scriptures. But whatever I read, I couldn’t find the solution. How do I practice to rid of craving as to rid of ignorance?
It wasn’t until I met Luangpu Dune. He taught to come back to my own mind. And once I practiced, I achieved the mind that is the knower, the observer. And I started to see phenomena. And I saw how suffering arises. Suffering is in the mind. Suffering is in the body. Having a body, it must age, it must fall ill, it must die, it must get hungry, it must get thirsty, it must defecate and urinate, it must catch infections. The body suffers. After observing, I saw there was no solution to this because there already exists a body. It is a karmic result. We must accept this. There is no solution.
All we can do is alleviate the suffering. For example, if we are hungry, we can eat. But In the hall here, we are monks and cannot eat whenever we like. If we are hot, we can find the shade of a tree. If we are cold, we can take a hot shower. These types of things, perpetual relief. Feeling sleepy, we take a rest. Relief again. All we can do about the suffering of the body is maintenance and temporary relief. Feeling hot or cold, we have clothing to wear. The Buddha taught about the purpose of clothing for monks. We wear a robe and remind ourselves that we don’t wear it to look good. We wear it to prevent insect bites and to protect against the heat and the cold. We are to know the reason for our consumption. The Buddha taught that we eat to quell the unpleasant feeling of hunger and not for tasty flavors, not for enjoyment and intoxication. This is what he taught.
So we cannot completely eliminate suffering of the body. Having a body, suffering is unavoidable. However, we can seek relief, such as going to the doctor when we are sick. Getting medicine, if we can heal an illness, then let’s do so. If it can’t be healed, then let the body die. This is the nature of the body.
The burden in the mind
Suffering of the mind, however, is a different case. Keep practicing and we will see that mental suffering as it occurs for short periods. At first we don’t see how suffering comes to be. Keep observing. Keep noticing. And eventually we will see each time that wanting arises, the heart will begin to struggle. When it struggles, it will then grasp at the eyes, ears, nose, tongue or body or mind. Not all at once. It will choose one. For example, the mind struggles as it wants to see a form. It then prioritizes the eyes. Or its struggles and wants to hear a sound, then the priority is to go to the ears. It will attend to the eyes or the ears when it makes contact with an object. If a mosquito bites us and it gets itchy, its interest will move to the body.
We cannot choose whether the mind will prioritize the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue or the body or the mind. The mind will grasp and cling on its own. It grabs onto a sight or grabs onto a sound. First it grabs the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body or mind. And then it goes to make contact with a form, a sound, a scent, a taste or physical contact with things outside ourselves. Once something has been latched onto, we can then see the burden that occurs in the mind.
This burden in the mind is suffering. It is suffering. The burden happens immediately. This is clinging to the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind. Speaking about it, you won’t understand. You have to practice on your own. We have to see it for ourselves. The mind clings to the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, the body, the mind.
We can talk about it like it says in the text. But we won’t see the truth of how the mind comes to grasp at the census. And there will be no end to our suffering. We can read to our death, but not practicing. We get nowhere. But reading is better than nothing at all. At least it keeps us from completely falling out of line, such as praying to higher beings to free us from suffering. That is off track. Or appeasing angels or gods, that doesn’t help. Doing chanting to appease gods because we don’t want to get Covid. that won’t help. We have to help ourselves. Be vigilant. Mindfulness and dhamma will guard us.
If we aren’t lured by sinful things, then it is unlikely we will catch Covid. Those infected early we saw in Thai news. They caught it at a boxing arena. They caught it at clubs and bars where they serve alcohol. People at the boxing arena, are they really there for the sport? That isn’t so. They watch it and they gamble. They watch horses and gamble. These are sinful allurements. If we watch Thai boxing and don’t gamble, stay at home. Watching from home we’re not going to be infected.
The mind struggles and wavers according to defilement. It is burdened. Suffering arises. Like if we want to entice a female, our heart struggles. The heart is now burdened. If we keep knowing and keep observing, we will see. Whenever desire arises, struggle follows.
In the Palli language, that struggle is called Bhava. Once there is this struggle, then there will be birth. Birth is the clinging to the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind. It really does grab them. We have to keep practicing. Keep watching and seeing. Eliminating defilements. And in the end we will see the mind grasp and cling to the mind.
The minds of us watching here have been grabbed to fabricate thoughts. Thinking good things, bad things, happy and sad things. The mind is what grabbed this stuff. How do we release it? We tell it to release. And it doesn’t. It doesn’t follow our orders. Occasionally, knower practitioners will see the mind release thoughts. It lets go of them. The mind releasing the mind itself is similar. Sometimes the mind releases the mind. Sometimes it picks it back up. How about a non-practitioner? Do they release their minds and then pick them back up? Yes, we all do. When we use the mind to work, like to make contact with a sense object, we grab the mind. When we use the eye, we grab the eye. We don’t grab the mind.
It is natural and normal, dogs, cats, unenlightened people. I’m not saying that unenlightened people are dogs or cats! What I mean is all dogs, all cats, all animals and all humans, the mind grabs the mind sometimes and releases it sometimes. But it isn’t with wisdom that it is released. It releases the mind because in that moment it isn’t using the mind.
Like if we are going to plough the fields or do gardening, we need to use a shovel for digging. But when we are digging a small hole, we use a scoop. Chopping away with a big shovel won’t work. To cut tall grasses, we need a blade. So we use a knife. We grab each tool one at a time. Similarly, the mind grabs the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, the body or the mind one at a time. When it is going to make use of it, it will pick it up.
Releasing the mind
Before I was a monk, I saw the mind that picked up the mind. I was able to see this because my mindfulness was fast. It would see the mind, release the mind, let it go and then pick it up again a moment later. I would know it picked up the mind, but I didn’t know how to release it. I would try so hard. In my practice to see how to make the mind release the mind. The one thing I knew is that if the mind could release the mind permanently, then there wouldn’t be suffering ever again.
At that time, I forgot about conditioned arising. The truth is, if there isn’t any birth, then there isn’t any suffering. And birth is the picking up of the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, the body or the mind. I’d see the mind grab and then let go over and over again. At first, when there was release, it would pick it back up immediately. After a while, it would release for longer.
I couldn’t find a master that could answer for me what to do to release the mind permanently. I didn’t know what to do in order to release the mind. Then I heard that Luangpu Suwat Suwajo had returned from America and was staying at Suanthip in Pakkret area. It was close to my house. I lived in Nonthaburi. I intended to ask him about the mind releasing the mind, and I wanted to present that mind to him. The mind was released at that time. It would do so for long periods.
When we got in the car…. At the time, I was with the nun. We weren’t ordained at the time. It wasn’t a monk with a nun in the car driving. We were just people. As soon as I drove out of my driveway, the mind picked up the mind again. I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to present the released mind to ask Luangpu, but it picked it up. I tried to fix it. What should I do? How can I release it again? I struggled furiously, but the mind would not release.
As we turned into the street the temple was on, I sighed. I can’t do it. I can’t release the mind. The mind is not me. It won’t follow my orders to release. When the mine considered the truth of non self, it released again immediately. I was pleased and hurried to see Luangpu. I arrived at the small hall. Luangpu was still in the inside room and I was in the outside room. There were many people. I arrived before dawn so I could sit at the front.
Finally, a monk pushed Luangpu out in his wheelchair. He was paralyzed years back in a car accident when the car flipped. He couldn’t walk and he couldn’t do much for himself. There was even a monk draining his saliva for him. His aggregates endured many difficulties. The monk pushed him to the center and everybody prostrated their respects.
He smiled a few times and contemplated some dhamma. There were many people and he smiled at them for a while. Then he looked at me and he said, “Sometimes the mind releases the mind and sometimes it picks it back up. And whatever we do, it won’t release it again. Until the mind sees the three characteristics of the mind, and then it releases.”
He just said it. I didn’t even turn in my homework. I guess my thoughts were too loud. After his teaching, I prostrated in my mind. It wasn’t the time to do so formally. The people were asking him to speak about this and that, how was America, and so forth. He would answer sometimes and at times the assisting monk would do so for him He was tired. It was hard for him to speak, but I got my answer.
Going to see him, the first sentence he uttered was, “Sometimes the mind releases the mind, sometimes the mind picks it back up. We can’t force the mind. When we see the three characteristics, see non self, it will release.” And that is exactly what I saw when I was driving into the temple. I knew that the mind cannot be controlled. The mind is non-self.
Seeing so, the mind released immediately. I knew I had to see the three characteristics of the mind repeatedly. Well, that is vipassana, only using the mind itself as the object — using the knower mined as the object. After that, I would improve step by step and the mind would gradually make its way out of suffering. I knew that whenever wanting would arise, struggle would follow. The struggling mind would have burden. The burdened mind was the suffering mind. At that time, there was no permanent release of the mind, the mind was still suffering.
At this point I considered Luangpu Dune’s teaching. He wrote, “The mind that sees the mind with crystal clarity is the Path. The result of the mind seeing the mind with said clarity is Cessation.” After much practice, I understood: the mind that sees the mind with crystal clarity is the mind that sees that the mind exhibits the 3 characteristics. Luangpu was speaking vaguely.
To be more precise, he would say the mind that sees the mind with crystal clarity is the Arahant Path. Because the last aggregate to be released is the mind. The wisdom the old masters shared along the lineage was amazingly consistent with scripture.
The barometer for our practice
I respect the monks that study scriptures. They’ve preserved the commentarial works and texts for the last 2000 years until now. This isn’t easy work. It faces many challenges. They have preserved it as a barometer for our practice. If our practice fosters results inconsistent with the Tipitaka, we’ll need to reassess. Something is certainly wrong. If we practice and find nirvana to be a realm of being, we are mistaken.
Or we see The 4 Noble Truths as four different coloured spheres. This contradicts the Tipitaka and is incorrect. Suffering, Its Cause, Its End and The Path to Its End are regarding actual physical and mental phenomena, not visions. We aren’t studying visions and apparitions. So the text are useful in evaluating our practice. As practitioners, we don’t disparage them. Luangpu Mun is the famed father of the Thai Forest Tradition and he studied them! I learned from his disciples. None of them looked down upon the texts. They were kept high.
Another teacher of mine was Luangpor Kasem Khemako. He wasn’t part of the Forest Tradition. I learned from many lineages. Luangpor Kasem respected the texts. He taught his students to hold them in high regard. If a volume fell to the floor, he’d place it back himself. He held that the texts were Dhamma dissemination tools, to be kept in high regard.
Those genuinely of the meditative traditions don’t shun the text traditions. That’s why we are encouraged to study the text. When I say we, the folks at home may be curious. I mean my monks who are here listening in your place. If I was speaking to an empty room, no words would be uttered. I’ve never taught Dhamma to just spirits. I need people.
It is mandatory my monks study the texts. They write their Dhamma Theory exams in the rains retreats. Over 10 of my monks have completed all three exams. I am the least studious of the monks in my temple. I only have written the first exam. My monks are more learned than me. All have passed at least the first are will continue on. They are studying to learn the theory of the practice. All the details are in the third exam about samatha and vipassana.
This year I won’t be sending the monks to write. With the virus still out there, I am afraid they will bring Covid back to the temple. The monks’ parents will say our temple doesn’t take proper care of their kids.
For our Dhamma practice, we observe reality. Once we see what’s real, then we read. Later I returned to Dependent Arising by Buddhadasa and saw he was correct. On my first read, I didn’t know how to practice yet. The way it is done: once we achieve the knower mind, observe physical and mental phenomena at work until physical and mental phenomena are released.
In the end, the knower mind will be released. This is the path that Luangpu Dune taught me. Now I am teaching it to you. Doing so, I am not indebted to my teacher. I have now passed this light on to you. How far you take it is up to you and your practice. The Dhamma has never faded away. Both the theory and practice are still available. Whether you are dedicated and determined enough to arrive… to arrive at the truth, is in your hands.
That’s all for today. All of us at home, take good care of your health. Then we may get a chance to come and learn in person.
30 May 2020